Monthly Archives: November 2005

It’s all about Web Sharing

My Activity App is now up!  You can check out my first Activity API application for Messenger, which I’ve dubbed Web Sharing here:

For those who haven’t read about how long it took to get this up, be sure to read my previous entry.  Needless to say, it ended up taking a month, half a dozen e-mails and a blog entry to get the application up.  So far there’s been no official response from Microsoft and I’ve been excluded from the latest mini-contest that I would’ve presumed I would’ve been included.  So, I’m still not very pleased with the whole thing from the ridiculous amount of work and time required not building an app (it actually wasn’t that difficult) but just trying to get it up.  Not only that, but even some final statement of apology would be nice.

Anyway, my inspiration for Web Sharing came from a long lost feature of MSN Explorer.  For those who knew it existed or have forgotten, the feature was called "Browse the Web Together".   You could initiate it from MSN Messenger 5 and assuming both people had MSN Explorer 8 and a paid MSN Subscription, an applet would appear full-screen with chat on the left and a web browsing pane on the right that both users would "share".  With the introduction of MSN Messenger 6 and MSN [Explorer] 9, this functionality was removed and hasn’t been seen since.

There are some distinct differences between the two however.  Firstly, Browse the Web Together let you see the other user’s cursor as it moved over the page.  This was actually rather ridiculous as you couldn’t see them scroll down a page nor fill in forms.  I thought about attempting to reproduce this silly feature as homage to the original but decided against it.  Secondly, Browse the Web Together would follow links (with the exception of form POSTs) but Web Sharing simply opens a new browser window.  If you want the user to follow the link, you have to copy/paste it back to the conversation window.  Thirdly, unlike Browse the Web Together, Web Sharing monitors URLs in the current conversation (http:, https: and www.) so that you can continue copy/pasting links as you normally do.

Initially I thought the design breaker was not being able to follow links (it’s actually a JavaScript restriction, although from a security standpoint it makes complete sense) but after actually using Web Sharing for awhile, it’s actually become a useful tool.  Although there’s plenty of uses for Web Sharing, like for a few friends to blow off some time or for someone to "push" information to a client, it really shines with contacts who send you a lot of links (usually from blogs) like images, articles, etc. which you normally end up clicking on and at the end of the day, end up with 25 browser windows.  If you have Web Sharing initiated, you can simply open up their conversation, read the article without having to do anything, and then go back to what you were doing — no clicking, no extra windows, no browser cleanup later. 

Also, I’d like to give my friend Huuf some credit for the whole thing as he pointed out the IFRAME SECURITY attribute and gave me some pointers on how to improve the Regular Expression for detecting the URLs in the conversation.

If you have any comments or feedback on Web Sharing, feel free to let me know.


Worlds Frustrating Contest

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of the "World’s Best App" Contest that started in September.  There have been plenty of submitted applications, and you should check them out.

However, as nearly everyone has noted, the one I got (nearly) everyone to try out *still* isn’t up.
Initially I made my little application back when the contest started.  It didn’t take too long to prove that my concept worked and then I left it for a few weeks.  Then in October, it was announced that they would add an incentive; $200 Amazon gift certificates for the first five approved applications.  So, I spent a few nights rewriting the application, adding a snazzy UI and then finally submitting it.

That was over three weeks ago.  It still isn’t up.
A week after I submitted my application, I got an e-mail that stated the following:
Thank you for your submission to the MSN Messenger Worlds Best App Contest. Unfortunately, your entry has been rejected for the following reason: Excluded Under Terms of Use. See the official rules for submission guidelines. The following additional text was supplied to help you diagnose the issue: Missing msgrp2p.xml file upon initial submission.
Please re-submit your application, including the msgrp2p.xml file.
So that’s fine, except that the form itself requires you to have the msgrp2p.xml file included and not only won’t submit the form without the XML file, but actually -validates- the file before a submission goes through.  How could it be "missing"?

I replied to them and carbon copied someone at Microsoft, attached my XML file and set to high priority.  A reply wasn’t immediately coming so I figured I’d follow the advice of the e-mail and simply send it again, unfortunately that proved to be fruitless as the form dutifully informed me that my application was "already submitted".

So, 5 days later I do get a reply indicating that I’m not the first to report the problem and that they’ll look into it.  That was on the 2nd of November and today is the 11th.  A friend of mine at Microsoft managed to get me an answer that I’d get at least some communication by them within 24 hours on Wednesday but of course here I am writing this on Friday and have yet to get anything.

I do encourage you to check out the currently submitted applications, because some of them are really quite cool.  At the moment my favourites are Cartoon Memory and Hangman (of course I have to mention TB’s Tankwars, but I’ve gotten sick of that now). 
Unfortunately for me the press for these applications has already gone out to major Messenger news sites and all the various Messenger blogs so the chances of me even having a remote chance of winning anything in this contest is basically none.
Good luck on your own applications!

Windows Live what?

Mark your calendar, the butterfly is dead, swatted down by those on giant pedestals at Redmond.  Like myself, I’m sure that in the various Microsoft locales around the world, marketing people screamed out in agony.
Of course, this rebranding makes sense completely from a corporate standpoint, however as I’m constantly reminded, MSN, er, excuse me, Windows Live is consumer oriented.  Consumer oriented products generally need a catchy name and distinct logo to make the mainstream.  Over the years, MSN has done this as someone will ask you for your "msn" (referring to your Passport e-mail address), or "talk to you on msn".  How exactly this lingo will transform under the Windows Live brand is beyond me…


Just the other day Corey came up with the idea that they "should just remove the MSN name" from the MSN logo as the butterfly was a symbol that nearly everyone immediately recognized.  So why are they killing it?  Surely someone at marketing should’ve raised the red flag on this one?


So not only has the equivalent of Apple rebranding the iPod as "Apple Music" been done, but now we’re apparently all going to be using Windows Live Messenger.  I’ve personally had to deal with the Windows Messenger / MSN Messenger divide over the past 3 years with claims that "all will be fixed soon" — but now Windows Live Messenger?  So now instead of two clients (ignoring Communicator), we’ll have three — Windows Messenger, MSN Messenger and Windows Live Messenger!  Luckily Windows Live Messenger will apparently upgrade MSN Messenger although MSN Messenger today doesn’t upgrade Windows Messenger, except on Windows 2000 — confused yet?  So are most of MSN…er.. Windows Live customers.
Apparently the butterfly will still be around for MSN’s "content" ( properties like entertainment, tv, MSNBC, etc.) although there’s been no mention of where MSN Dialup/Premium fits in this whole mess.  I know a lot of people will say, "it doesn’t matter, it’s just a name", but a name can make or break you in this rather competitive market. I just hope this one somehow works out.